SAKHIR, BAHRAIN // Tens of millions of Bahraini dinars will change hands in Manama this weekend, both official and unofficial. Most hotels in the capital, as is the practice during a grand prix weekend, have bumped up their rates, with most charging the equivalent of Dh2,000 per night. Almost all are sold out. Research by Godo Marketing and Research in Dubai found that the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix generated US$548 million (Dh2bn) in revenue - almost a fifth of which went to hotels and restaurants.
What is not known, however, is how much money was created through under-the-radar business. Abu Dhabi, too, can expect significant entrepreneurialism come late October/November. Faith Emmanuel, an estate agent in Manama, helped people to rent out their homes for F1 weekend. "A place that would normally cost maybe Dn600 (Dh5,860) for the month can go for Dn120 a day," he said. "A two-bedroom place with all the facilities is just like a hotel, if not better. All the hotels are booked and they also push their prices up. Compared with that, this is really reasonable."
Mr Emmanuel said Bahrain experienced a "major" trade in people renting out their houses during F1 season. Some tenants suffered, however. "For the grand prix, some landlords move people out to keep the apartments empty." Stuart Campbell, 32, a law graduate from Inverness in Scotland, travelled to Bahrain with a friend without a race-day ticket, but bought one with days to go. He found a two-bedroom flat in Manama that the owner had made available.
"We're paying about Dn80 a night and you can't show me a single hotel in town that is as good value as that." Though considerable, the money generated by the residents of Bahrain this weekend will be a fraction of what the citizens of the more established F1 cities can make, with decades of experience behind them. When the Monaco Grand Prix takes place on May 24, homes along the Côte d'Azur will be abandoned for the week by their owners. Instead, they will be occupied by the more discerning brand of holidaymaker. One 300-square-metre, five-bedroom villa between Monaco and Nice is being advertised for a cool ?25,000 (Dh119,000) for the week - and it does not even have a view of the race.
One owner of an apartment in the centre of Monaco is charging more than the cost of a ticket for what he claims is a view of 70 per cent of the course - while still not having to leave his home that night. Tickets for race-day views from his balcony cost ?2,500 each, with room for 24 people - a potential ?60,000 for an afternoon's "work". And in Melbourne, for the season's opening race a parking space within a tram ride of the circuit was on sale for A$200 (Dh520).